Researchers at Lund University (papper på svenska) and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have uncovered a way to treat aggressive breast tumours through manipulation of the connective tissue cells of the tumour.
Approximately 10–15 percent of patients develop an aggressive form of breast cancer (basal breast cancer) that does not respond to traditional hormone therapy resulting in a much higher mortality rate, this form of cancer also re-occurs often.
In the new study published in Nature Medicine, researchers have revealed a growth factor – PDGF-CC – which transmits information between the tumour cells and the connective tissue cells, mainly in basal breast cancers. This communication between surrounding cells, connective tissue, blood vessels and immune system cells has been shown to be vital in the growth of tumor cells, relative to basal breast cancer.
in the tumour cells were associated with a poor prognosis”, explains Kristian Pietras, Professor at Lund University.
“Previously, it was believed that the various subgroups of breast cancer originated from different cell types in the mammary gland. Our research has shown that connective tissue cells can also modify tumour cells directly with regard to their sensitivity to hormones, which has significant implications in the development of more effective treatments”, says Professor Ulf Eriksson at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, who initiated the study together with Professor Pietras.
Researchers tested a new biological drug that they have developed, which blocks the PDGF-CC-mediated communication between the tumour cells and the connective tissue cells. This resulted in the transformation of the basal breast cancers into hormone-sensitive (luminal) breast cancers.